It’s graduation season! As my timeline becomes filled with endless college graduates, I can’t help but reminisce on how I felt when I graduated from undergrad in 2016. There were so many things I looked forward to like independence, a new place, a new car, and the start of my career. I was so excited that it was only fitting that theme of 2017 be ‘The Year of New Beginnings’. Now that I’m two years out, I feel the need to share my many experiences and lessons learned (hence the start of this blog). Here are 6 things I wish I knew before I graduated:
1. How To Save
For as long as I can remember I have always been responsible with money. However, I can honestly say that the moment I started making REAL money working a full-time job, my habits went out the window. I no longer had a need to be so frugal anymore. It wasn’t until I quit my first job, that I was forced to correct these bad habits. This meant sacrificing certain luxuries like going to brunch, getting my hair done every two weeks, and eating out for lunch every day. I’ve tried many apps like mint.com and other methods to save money, but the method that has worked for me the most is giving myself an allowance. Here’s what I do:
- Understand what your expenses are. Where is your money really going?
- Evaluate what you need and what can you live without. Get in the habit of making sacrifices especially if you need to save extra money for a personal goal.
- Set your allowance amount (ex. $300 a week). Make sure it is large enough to cover any automatic payments you may have throughout the week i.e. Nelnet, Amazon Prime, rent, etc.
- On payday, pay yourself up to your allowance amount then scrap everything else into your savings account. For example, if my checking account currently has $200 in it and I get paid $450 a week, I would put $100 in my checkings to max out my $300 allowance and the other $350 goes into my savings account.
- Set a goal. Understand why you are saving. Are you trying to pay off your loans, save for a vacation, purchase a car or a home? It’s way easier when you have a goal in mind.
This method may be a little extreme, but you’ll be surprised at how little you can actually live off of. It once took me months to see my savings account stack up, now I get the same result in a matter of weeks. Try it.
2. How To Properly Pay Taxes
The 1st time I paid taxes by myself it was a piece of cake. The second time, well, my situation got complicated. I had multiple sources I was pulling information from and one small mistake resulted in the IRS coming after me several months later, requesting to pay them money I had already spent! Not fun. A little advice, when in doubt seek help, no matter how small. Self-service tax software, like TurboTax, make filing taxes super easy. However, if you do not understand a question or know how it applies to your situation, be sure to consult a professional before submitting. DO NOT GUESS. The time (and money) it may take you to become educated upfront will surely save you thousands of dollars in the end. Trust me.
3. Start Paying Off Your Loans During School
It is important to know that although you are not required to begin paying back your loans until 6 months after you finish school, it is a great practice to pay your loans down while you are still in school. You will thank yourself when you get out. Get into the habit of using any “extra” money to pay down your loans. For example, assuming you have a part-time job year-round, use your job for your everyday expenses and use extra money like part of your refund check, partial summer internship money, birthday money, etc towards your loans. Even if you are able to knock out one $2000 loan while in school, that will be a huge help after you graduate. Also, consider setting up an automatic payment to come out of your paycheck. $50 a week is $2600 in just one year. Between automatic payments and ‘extra’ money, you would be positioning yourself for financial freedom.
4. Don’t Feel Pressured Into Accepting The First Job Offer
During my time as an undergraduate business student, I naturally had a competitive spirit. It is so easy to feel like you are falling behind when everything seems to be working out for everyone else. Don’t get caught up in the comparison game. Take your time, do your research, properly prepare for your interviews, and make sure to take the opportunity of best fit. Don’t just chase money, you won’t be happy.
Don’t settle for less, just because you’re too impatient to wait for God’s best. – @instagodministries
5. Travel As Much As You Can As A Student
By the time I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, I was a senior in college. I had the best time of my life traveling to South Africa, meeting new people, and trying new things. Upon my return I immediately wished I could turn back time, taking at least one big trip each year. As a student, you have so much access to resources that could make traveling abroad very inexpensive, take advantage of it. The moment you leave school, you will have to figure out everything yourself. Even then, unless you work for yourself, your time off from work and other obligations is very limited. For those still in school, don’t wait. Travel now while you have little responsibilities.6. Don’t Over Plan, You Can’t Control Everything